THE PRICE OF BEAUTY

De­spite the risks that sur­round non-sur­gi­cal in­jec­tions and cos­metic surgery in China, an in­creas­ing num­ber of Chi­nese women are spend­ing for­tunes to have th­ese pro­ce­dures done

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI -

yu­ran@chi­nadaily.com.cn

There used to be a stereo­type in China that only ugly peo­ple re­quired cos­metic surgery. But times are chang­ing, and fast. Zhou Jian­jing, who is in her 30s, has a wish list of cos­metic pro­ce­dures and she’s go­ing to at­tempt to check ev­ery item off, cit­ing fears that she might one day look older or worse than her peers.

“Some of my friends have got­ten cer­tain in­jec­tions to get a face lift and a nar­rower chin. I need to deal with the mi­nor changes to my face to keep up as well,” said Zhou, who is think­ing of get­ting a bo­tulinum toxin injection, com­monly known as Bo­tox, for a slim­mer face. Zhou is also con­sid­er­ing hyaluronic acid in­jec­tions for a firmer nose.

Mi­cro cos­metic pro­ce­dures, such as the two Zhou is mulling over, have ex­pe­ri­enced a surge in pop­u­lar­ity in re­cent years. Un­like plas­tic surg­eries that of­ten come with long-term or per­ma­nent ef­fects, th­ese non-in­va­sive in­jec­tions pro­duce ef­fects that last from three months to two years.

Even though th­ese in­jec­tions aren’t de­void of their risks, many women in China have adopted pos­i­tive at­ti­tudes to­ward them, mainly due to de­mands in their ca­reer and per­sonal life, as well as so­cial per­cep­tions.

“I be­lieve that more Chi­nese women across dif­fer­ent ages will be urged to take ac­tion and ac­cept mi­cro cos­metic surg­eries as the norm. Pur­su­ing beauty is a life­time mis­sion for us women,” said Zhou.

Ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics re­leased dur­ing a news con­fer­ence held by the Chi­nese As­so­ci­a­tion of Plas­tics and Aes­thet­ics in Novem­ber 2015, China’s plas­tic surgery in­dus­try has bur­geoned with a yearly growth rate of 30 per­cent over the past three to five years. It is ex­pected to be­come an 800 bil­lion yuan ($122 bil­lion) mar­ket by 2019, sur­pass­ing coun­tries such as the United States and Brazil to be­come the third largest source of cos­metic surgery clients.

“The def­i­ni­tion of plas­tic surgery has changed. It is no longer just ugly peo­ple who want to un­dergo changes to their face. Now, it is more like get­ting the ic­ing on the cake for al­ready good look­ing peo­ple,” said Zhang Xiaofei, a doc­tor at Shang­hai Ximei Med­i­cal Cos­metic Clinic.

Zhang has worked as a cos­metic doc­tor for more than 10 years and he has wit­nessed a ma­jor change in his clien­tele — there are now more young peo­ple look­ing to en­hance their fa­cial fea­tures and they see plas­tic surgery as an ac­cept­able and quick method to do so.

“The to­tal sales rev­enue earned by non-sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures grew from 10 to 40 per­cent in the past five years. Such pro­ce­dures are the pre­ferred op­tion for con­sumers who are only in their 20s,” said Zhang, who per­forms cos­metic treat­ments for about five clients ev­ery day.

Zhang added that Bo­tox in­jec­tions have been very pop­u­lar among young peo­ple, es­pe­cially women who have just grad­u­ated from univer­sity as they be­lieve that im­prov­ing their looks can give them an edge in ap­ply­ing for jobs and find­ing boyfriends.

“As one of the hottest choices among young women, the do­mes­tic brand of bo­tulinum toxin costs about 2,000 to 3,000 yuan per injection, which re­quires the per­son to con­tinue ap­pli­ca­tion ev­ery half a year if she wants to re­tain the firm­ness of her face,” said Zhang.

As a fol­lower of mi­cro cos­metic surgery, Yang Xi spends about 4,000 yuan quar­terly on Bo­tox in­jec­tions. To 24-year-old Yang, this is a nec­es­sary in­vest­ment to con­tinue look­ing young.

“I don’t feel ashamed that I have un­der­gone mi­cro cos­metic pro­ce­dures as I wasn’t born with a slim face. I know I have the choice to change it to be­come more beau­ti­ful through in­jec­tions or wear­ing makeup,” said Yang, who is plan­ning to get in­jec­tions for her nose as well as un­dergo dou­ble eye­lid surgery this year.

“There is no turn­ing back when it comes to cos­metic surgery, but I don’t re­gret it at all,” said Yang.

From the per­spec­tive of pro­fes­sional cos­metic ex­perts, Chi­nese beauty stan­dards have been in­creas­ingly in­flu­enced by their

Zhou Jian­jing, Western coun­ter­parts.

“Wide and round eyes, white skin and high nose bridges are seen as ideal for Chi­nese con­sumers, who tend to be wiser with their de­ci­sions on cos­metic surgery — from seek­ing longterm ef­fects to ac­cept­ing tem­po­rary and safer prod­ucts,” said Wang Tso-hsuan, the chair­man of Tai­wan Nice Clinic, who has been reg­u­larly in­vited to at­tend con­sult­ing events in the Chi­nese main­land since 2010.

As Wang re­called, the first time he was in­vited to give a speech in the Chi­nese main­land six years ago, there were only two im­ported prod­ucts (Bo­tox and Resty­lane) for cos­metic surgery avail­able to lo­cal con­sumers. To­day, there is a con­sid­er­able range of im­ported prod­ucts in the mar­ket.

“The rise in pop­u­lar­ity of non­sur­gi­cal treat­ments here in China is a nat­u­ral move­ment of the cos­metic surgery in­dus­try. Soon, such treat­ments will fall un­der the daily beauty care cat­e­gory, sim­i­lar to hair care and skin­care treat­ments,” said Wang.

How­ever, not all ex­perts view eye to eye with many clients re­gard­ing this mat­ter.

“More and more stu­dents are seek­ing plas­tic surgery as they be­lieve chang­ing their looks can boost their self-con­fi­dence and bring them more op­por­tu­ni­ties in life,” said Tian Hong, a re­searcher at the Shang­hai Academy of So­cial Sci­ences. “But this isn’t the only way to at­tain beauty. Young peo­ple shouldn’t pin their hopes on cos­metic surgery.”

The grow­ing trend in China can be traced back to the mecca of plas­tic surgery — South Korea. With 20 per­cent of women aged 20 to 49 in Seoul say­ing they’ve gone un­der the knife in or­der to look good, the coun­try is home to the largest num­ber of peo­ple in the world who have un­der­gone plas­tic surg­eries. The rev­enue of this in­dus­try in South Korea in 2013 ex­ceeded $60 bil­lion, ac­count­ing for 4 per­cent of the coun­try’s GDP.

Such is its rep­u­ta­tion that South Korea has be­come the top desti­na­tion for Chi­nese con­sumers seek­ing the lat­est pro­ce­dures. Sta­tis­tics from South Korean’s Min­istry for Health, Wel­fare and Fam­ily Affairs showed that the num­ber of Chi­nese peo­ple en­ter­ing the coun­try for such pur­poses jumped from 791 in 2009 to 56,000 in 2014.

“In China, the con­sump­tion in plas­tic surgery and beauty care has be­come the fourth largest growth en­gine fol­low­ing real es­tate, au­to­mo­biles and tourism, in ad­di­tion to its nearly 1.4 bil­lion pop­u­la­tion — it is a promis­ing mar­ket to ex­plore,” said Lee Kil Sung, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of Yes­tar In­ter­na­tional Med­i­cal Beauty Group, a South Korean brand that en­tered the China mar­ket in 2005.

An­other pop­u­lar cos­metic surgery desti­na­tion where con­sumers pay rel­a­tively lower costs is Tai­wan. In fact, com­pe­ti­tion has been so stiff in Tai­wan that 160 clin­ics have closed or gone bank­rupt in the past two years, said Wang.

“More con­sumers are fly­ing to Taipei to get plas­tic surgery and non-sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures as they cost half of those in South Korea,” said Wang, whose clinic faces ex­tremely stiff com­pe­ti­tion from 400 other cos­metic es­tab­lish­ments lo­cated on a 4-kilome­ter-long road in down­town Taipei.

Sta­tis­tics from the Chi­nese As­so­ci­a­tion of Plas­tics and Aes­thet­ics showed that the per­cent­age of ac­ci­dents and dis­putes caused by the cos­metic surg­eries un­der­gone by Chi­nese con­sumers in Korea have in­creased from 10 to 15 per­cent yearly. The as­so­ci­a­tion also re­vealed that up to 80 per­cent of derma fillers are il­le­gally in­jected in ho­tel rooms by peo­ple rec­om­mended from on­line so­cial plat­forms.

“I’ve seen too many vic­tims of il­le­gal med­i­cal surg­eries or in­jec­tions which haven’t been per­formed by li­censed physicians at li­censed med­i­cal in­sti­tu­tions with prod­ucts that have been ap­proved by the Chi­nese Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion (CFDA),” said Cui Shuang, deputy di­rec­tor and der­ma­tol­o­gist at Shang­hai Ma­jor Young Plas­tic Surgery Hos­pi­tal.

“It is es­sen­tial for the me­dia and govern­ment to ed­u­cate con­sumers about the cor­rect way to con­sume such prod­ucts and ser­vices. The more ex­pen­sive and legally im­ported prod­ucts op­er­ated by ex­pe­ri­enced li­censed doc­tors have bet­ter ef­fects and fewer side ef­fects.”

Work­ing at one of the only two spe­cial­ized plas­tic surgery hospi­tals in Shang­hai, Cui be­lieves that the in­dus­try should be more reg­u­lated to pre­vent the oc­cur­rences of med­i­cal ac­ci­dents. Her ma­jor clients are still middle- and up­per-class women aged from 30 to 50, though she has no­ticed that more young grad­u­ates are seek­ing her out th­ese days.

“The lower-risk face-lift­ing and non-sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures have at­tracted younger peo­ple in their 20s to change their fa­cial fea­tures, while el­derly con­sumers mainly go for cos­metic prod­ucts that can re­sult in firmer skin and re­duce wrinkles,” said Cui.

With re­gard to the fu­ture trends in the cos­metic surgery in­dus­try in China, Cui ex­pects to see more ex­pe­ri­enced doc­tors open clin­ics to pro­vide more spe­cific treat­ments. She also fore­sees that new in­for­ma­tion about cos­metic pro­ce­dures will be more openly shared among Chi­nese and in­ter­na­tional ex­perts in con­fer­ences, dis­cus­sion pan­els and on­line plat­forms.

“Al­though we are still lag­ging be­hind a lit­tle with cer­tain new prod­ucts that are still await­ing ap­provals from CFDA, I be­lieve that Chi­nese doc­tors will be able to catch up by us­ing up­grades to cur­rent prod­ucts,” said Cui.

I be­lieve that more Chi­nese women across dif­fer­ent ages will be urged to take ac­tion and ac­cept mi­cro cos­metic surg­eries as the norm. Pur­su­ing beauty is a life­time mis­sion for us women.”

in her 30s, who has a plan of cos­metic pro­ce­dures to do this year

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Cui Shuang, a der­ma­tol­o­gist at Shang­hai Ma­jor Young Plas­tic Surgery Hos­pi­tal, ad­min­is­ters a treat­ment for a client.

LU PING / CHINA DAILY

is boom­ing, thanks to women's shift­ing at­ti­tudes to­ward cos­metic pro­ce­dures and a grow­ing de­sire to main­tain their looks.

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